So I was taking a shit the other day, thinking “wow, that went through me pretty quick” then rationalized that yeah, of course it did, I’m 6’2 and if I didn’t work out I’d probably weight around 175 wet. My body just digests stuff at a much faster pace than the average person. “High metabolism” they call it, and while 90% of society looks at guys with high metabolism with green envy, for those trying to build muscle, it’s more of a curse.
See the thing is, much of America, and other parts of the world as well, are quite out of shape. “Weight loss” is searched, marketed and sold at a much higher volume than things for “weight gain” or “muscle building”. So for the average person, having a high metabolism that keeps them naturally skinny is a nice thing. However if you are an ectomorph and trying to build muscle then you probably know that this is very much a double-edged sword from hell.
Making Gains as a Skinny Guy
So to build muscle and keep your body in an anabolic state you need to both train hard and eat hard. Many people claim skinny guys stay skinny just because they don’t eat enough, like in this article. As a bonafide ectomorph I eat twice the portions of my overweight friends, regularly leaving obese people impressed with how much I can down in one sitting. I am a fatass in a skinny man’s body. The idea that skinny guys stay skinny just because they don’t eat enough is bullsh*t.
You’re an adult, you know if you are eating “a lot” or not. The problem is, even if you gorge yourself on quick cheap food options as an ectomorph, you will gain weight, but a lot of it will end up in places you don’t want, like around your waist. This results in a look referred to as “skinny fat”.
Fat people, and people with slower metabolisms don’t need to consume as much, have more stored and can thus make gains without focusing as much on diet as ectomorphs. However cutting down and looking lean and cut is more of a struggle for them as well, so all things do seem to balance out in the end.
If you’re a skinny ectomorph trying to build muscle but are struggling, try taking the following into account for 2-3 months and see what happens. These are things that I, as the editor of Skinny Yoked have been doing for years and feel have contributed greatly to my overall physique and maintenance weight of around 200-215 pounds (on a very narrow skeletal frame).
1. Eat Big, Supplement Big.
For regular average “Joe’s” supplements are very much a luxury that aren’t really required to trim down, pack on muscle and look stronger. For chronic ectomorphs though, supplements are simply the most efficient, cost effective way to overload their systems with the nutrients required to grow.
This doesn’t mean forsake food. Actually quite the opposite, for a skinny guy to pack on muscle he needs to both eat a lot AND supplement. Whole foods are the base on which the supplements build off. You stuff your face to hit your daily calorie macros and then add supplements to reinforce those numbers with the sufficient protein, creatine and vitamins needed to grow.
Throwing at least 2 big protein shakes, a strong multivitamin/multi-mineral and some creatine on top of a solid whole food meal plan will guarantee results. Adding supplements like whey protein and creatine to a base diet of whole foods with help you stay in a surplus and anabolic without needing to consume “trash” calories found in junk foods and which are associated with “dirty bulks”. Topping a healthy diet with supplements allows you to bulk without ingesting loads of trash.
2. Get Your Timing Right
So much about getting big is down to timing. Timing of your nutrient intake, timing of your workout sessions, duration of said sets, sessions, and amount of time allocated to sleep and recovery. If you start messing just one of these variables you will hinder your growth.
For nutrient intake, as long as you’re eating about .7 to .8 grams of protein per pound of body weight you’re good on your protein requirements, but that doesn’t mean you can neglect timing. If you have long gaps without eating you risk putting your body into a self-destructive catabolic state. We look at timing over the period of 24 hours, not so much whether you can chuck your protein shake in under 5 seconds after your last set.
The two most important times for getting nutrients for a skinny guy are first, right before bed because your body won’t have any nutrition for 8-9 hours straight, so getting some protein in your stomach to sustain the body throughout sleep is critical to maintaining a solid growth trajectory.
The second most important eating time is right after waking up, for the same reason as above, the body is in a fasted state and needs nutrients ASAP for it to continue the energy intensive process of constructing new muscle.
3. Train Furious
We’ve written before on the merits of training furious and as the years go by believe it to be one of the key differentiators between guys that seriously make gains and those that don’t. If you are always within a “comfort zone” in the gym you’re probably not stressing your body enough to kick start it into feeling the need to strengthen itself.
Think of bodybuilding as becoming stronger through micro-failures. Every time you fail you rebuild bigger and stronger. Thus in order to become “large” you must first experience thousands of micro failures that stimulate the body into strengthening itself. (You can apply this philosophy to many aspects of live actually, relationships, work, etc, get knocked down and keep getting up!)
This doesn’t mean overloading yourself too much and getting yourself all injured; as those are catastrophic failures and will set you back months if not years in your bodybuilding goals.
4. Target Your Weaknesses
This one is pretty hard to do, and is counter intuitive to the male ego. Everyone likes doing chest and biceps for a reason, they feel good, look good, and because they look good we train them more often than other areas.
This however is the exact wrong approach an ectomorph should take towards bodybuilding.
As a skinny guy you’re already starting at a negative balance when it comes to things like deltoid development, core strength and leg development. For these reasons you want to actually do those muscle groups more than you do things that you’re already ok at. Additionally, by building out a solid trunk, traps, neck and legs you’ll make yourself visually wider, adding thickness to your silhouette and negating some of the twiny-ness associated with ectos.
This really sucks for the first couple of months, but after that it’s absolutely awesome. When you’re both tall AND have thick ass legs, it’s impressive as f*ck. Arnold used to do this himself, ruthlessly focus on his weak spots, which sucked short term but led him to become one of the all-time greats in the long term. You’re muscles are all connected, and thus the body is a chain. Reenforce your weak links!
5. Train With Shorter and/or Stronger Guys
Shorter stockier “endomorph” types, when all things equal (nutrition, years spent training) should be able to lift more than an ectomorph. Why? Mechanical advantage. A shorter man with shorter arms moves the barbell a lesser distance when benching, squatting or deadlifting.
IF you train regularly with guys stockier than you then you know this is true. Instead of being discouraged by this disadvantage though, seize upon it and use it as motivation.
By always working out with shorter, stockier, thicker guys you’ll force yourself to adjust to their rhythm, which will ultimately stress your body more and lead to more muscle development.
If you only work out with other skinny ectomorphs then you may not challenge each other enough, or at the intense pace in which you would if you worked out with someone built more solidly.
Remember: Always aspiring and looking up is better then being content and looking forward.
There is no magic cure to being skinny. And really there is no need to “cure” anything, because being an ectomorph is one of the best body types to have. In most senses it is actually an awesome curse to have, as society generally favors being thin over being muscular.
However, while it does make bodybuilding challenging, that’s the whole point, to challenge yourself physically and mentally in pursuit of a functionally fit aesthetic. So yeah, it’s tough and that’s just fine because that is the whole point of bodybuilding.